Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness – Chinese Proverb

This image has always fascinated me.  It says so much about the world.  It was used while I was in Korea to show the difference between the North and South end of the peninsula.  South Korea, in the dark, looks like an island because there is no light, save for Pyongyang, between the DMZ and China. It was presented here in Africa when I arrived to demonstrate the environment we are operating in.  Limited resources and no real activity at night.  The briefer said, “With light comes goodness.”  I feel that is a little arrogant to think because there is no light that they are not doing good.  It is more to me like without the light you are not growing.  To me I see that the parts of the world that have the light require the light.  It is an indication of growth and progress.  In America we have productivity around the clock, just as in Europe.  We produce, we process, we transport all hours of the day.  All because we demand it… require it.

Here in Africa, that is not the case.  Let’s take Djibouti for example. If you look closely at the image above the only light in Djibouti is on the coast, in the capital.  Djibouti has a geographically strategic importance to the shipping industry.  It lies at the opening of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.  This is a heavy shipping lane for ships bringing goods from east to west.  Thanks to the French who built the Suez Canal in 1869 to shorten the route from India to Europe.  Before this canal was finished the only route was around Africa.  Essentially, Djibouti is the “truck stop” off the highway between destinations.  Djibouti’s economy is dominated by the services sector, providing services as both a transit port for the region and as an international transshipment and refueling center.  If you watch the news and also understand this areas strategic importance then you can understand why these pirates are cropping up in this region.  It is a shipping choke point for the entire industry and these pirates know this.

Outside of the shipping industry Djibouti has very little else.  There is some growth in the minerals industry.  Up the road from here about an hour or so there is the crater lake called Lake Assal.  Lake Assal is a saline lake which is 509 ft below sea level, making it the lowest point on land in Africa and the third lowest land depression on Earth after the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee. There is no outflow from the lake and, due to high evaporation, the salinity level of its waters is ten times that of the sea, making it one of the most saline bodies of water in the world.  Lake Assal is the world’s largest salt reserve.  Over the past decade there has been growth in the extraction of salt for distribution in the region and into the Middle East.

There are a few others, but they are small.  For the most part Djibouti is mostly barren, with little development in the agricultural and industrial sectors. The country has a harsh climate, a largely unskilled labor force, and limited natural resources.  The unemployment for the country is 59%.  So…, to my point, beyond the port, they do not require light for there is no growth.  And to bring me back to the Chinese Proverb that is the title of this post, We can curse this darkness, succumb to the pirates, ignore this region, or we can bring them light through investing in the future of this region.  Assist in stabilizing the governments through alliances and common goals, training defense forces, and providing support.  Djibouti is an Islamic nation with a cordial relationship with its western allies surrounded by unstable governments. It has great importance to the world as a key “truck stop” for international trade.

I got most of my facts from Wikipedia because it was easy.  You can conduct deeper research if you wish or if you happen to be an expert on Africa I would be glad to have your input.  Thanks for reading.  I will bring you more in a week.

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One Response to Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness – Chinese Proverb

  1. Jeremy says:

    So where is Perry at this point? Hope you are doing well out there, sounds like you have the camp life pretty much figured out.

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